Trump-Xi 'bromance' set to continue as Beijing prepares lavish welcome

US President Donald Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago state in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6, 2017 PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • When they met at US President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in April, Chinese President Xi Jinping found a way to charm the mercurial former real estate mogul.

Mr Trump hailed the "good chemistry" of the Florida summit and predicted that "lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away". The "bromance" is set to continue when Mr Xi returns the favour by laying on a lavish welcome for Mr Trump, whose visit to Beijing starts on Wednesday.

Mr Xi has grown more powerful since, while Mr Trump is under a political cloud after his former campaign manager was indicted in a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Chinese experts say Beijing has learnt to manage Mr Trump.

"We're going to make him feel comfortable," said Renmin University professor of international relations Wang Yiwei.

"He may end up being re-elected. We need to look at this from a long-term perspective, and not view him as an 'other' or a joke."

Mr Trump clearly respects Mr Xi. While railing against the US trade deficit with China, he has blamed this on his predecessors and expressed admiration for the Chinese leader. In an interview with Fox Business Network, Mr Trump gushed that "some people might call him the king of China" and "people say we have the best relationship of any president-president".

Mr Cui Tiankai, China's Ambassador to the United States, said that Mr Trump will receive a "state visit-plus" experience in Beijing.

While it is unclear what the "plus" means - Mr Trump is expected to go to the Forbidden City but China has released few details - a protocol that lets Mr Trump "rejoice in grandiosity" will be important to keeping relations stable, said Dr Teng Jianqun, head of American studies at the China Institute for International Studies, a Foreign Ministry think-tank.

"We must seize upon his special characteristics, such as liking instant gratification, and set up some things that bring immediate results," he added.

On the commercial front, that means a slew of deals - and worries that Mr Trump will be placated by contract wins instead of resolving complaints over discriminatory Chinese policies.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline Trump-Xi 'bromance' set to continue as Beijing prepares lavish welcome. Subscribe